Mayor gives update on School Road Safety Initiative

Just hours after a man was killed while cycling in an industrial area of Seattle, Mayor McGinn announced an update to a road safety initiative near schools.

The initiative, which was announced before a devastating collision near Eckstein Middle School, has gained more attention since the tragedy. While it falls far short of our suggestion for a bold plan for zero dangerous streets within a block of any school in Seattle by 2014, it shows the city is moving forward on road safety near schools.

The mayor also noted the importance of kids biking and walking to school as a way to change the dangerous transportation culture that has developed in our neighborhoods (for more on that, see Clint’s post on this blog earlier this week).

From the Mayor’s Office:

Mayor Mike McGinn today announced details of a new School Road Safety Initiative. First announced in McGinn’s State of the City address in February 2013, the School Road Safety Initiative will analyze conditions near Seattle schools and develop an action plan to make improvements to address road safety issues. A School Road Safety Task Force and agency partners have been assembled to advise the City in implementing the plan.

“I’ve heard from parents, teachers, and neighbors that roads near our schools need to be safer. And recent tragedies in our city remind us of the urgency of this work,” said McGinn. “We will address school road safety through physical improvements and enforcement, while encouraging more people to look out for each other on our roads.”

The School Road Safety Initiative will include:

  • A traffic safety analysis of streets near schools and a prioritization framework for improvements
  • Creation of a safety education toolbox that can be used at all schools, building on the “Be Super Safe” road safety outreach campaign
  • A plan for installing more traffic school zone speed cameras and other potential enforcement programs
  • A review of existing legislation and policies related to school traffic safety

In the last year, school zone speed cameras were installed at four schools in Seattle, and Safe Routes to Schools investments were made at six other schools. The Road Safety Action Plan and a “Be Super Safe” outreach campaign were also launched.

“A road safety plan for schools on a citywide scale will be a big boost to Safe Routes to Schools efforts”, said Lisa Quinn, director of the pedestrian advocacy organization Feet First.

“Encouraging active travel routines when children are young helps establish lifelong healthy habits. But Seattle’s neighborhood streets should be safer, making it easier for children to get around,” said Julie Salathé of the Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation. “This initiative is a significant opportunity for people to work together to make our neighborhoods safer for our children and all families that want to walk and bike more.”

The Mayor’s Office and the City of Seattle are working with Seattle Public Schools to examine road safety at schools across the city. In addition to forming a School Road Safety Task Force, the City will be reaching out to school communities across the City and developing a network of school road safety liaisons that can provide local input on the schools they know best.

“Getting to school by walking and biking is fun – and research shows it improves children’s grades, keeps them fit, and happier during the school day. Let’s do more to protect our kids and give them the freedom to safely walk or bike to school”, said Cathy Tuttle, director of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.

This planning effort will result in a product for each school that can be a guide for the City, School District, and school communities to help increase safety near schools.

This initiative was announced before the recent tragedy near Nathan Eckstein Middle School. Since that collision, caused by an allegedly impaired driver, the Seattle Department of Transportation has continued implementing safety enhancements on Northeast 75th Street and has started working with the community to examine long-term physical changes to the street. The School Road Safety Initiative envisions similar work near schools across the city.

The final public meeting about possible safety improvements to NE 75th Street is tonight (Wednesday) 7-9 p.m. at Calvary Christian Assembly.

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5 Responses to Mayor gives update on School Road Safety Initiative

  1. Matthew says:

    We could increase road safety around schools tomorrow morning if we were really serious about it. Choose 50 schools, put one traffic enforcement officer at each school, and just start writing tickets all morning. Speeding, double-parking, parking too close to intersections, failing to yield at crosswalks. Keep it up morning after morning until we start to see a change in behavior, even if it’s only temporary.

    Pair this with the types of longer-term thinking that McGinn is calling for, with its consultants, its committees, its review boards. That stuff has its place too. Many of the recommendations will likely involve fundamentally redesigning roads around schools, which means a lot of time and a lot of money. But there’s no need to wait on safety. We already have tools at our disposal and we could start using them immediately. We just don’t have the will.

  2. CL says:

    Sounds like a good plan Matthew. Plenty of police officers have kids and the community could get that level of enforcement if the PTAs asked for it…

    I just learned that (years ago) Portland groups lobbied their government to raise traffic fines, then they took that margin that was created and dedicated all those funds to traffic safety improvements.

    So, how about raising traffic fines in school zones? Should be (relatively) easy to gain support for such an amendment (with funds dedicated to reengineering school zones) Especially when the police aggressively apply those fines… I’d support such a bill.

    Anyone know if something like this is in the works in Seattle yet?

  3. Susan says:

    Wow, I am really sick of words like “analyze,” “develop,” and “advise,” which is about all we get from the city when it comes to bike/ped safety. When are we going to here words like “approve” and “begin” and “construct”?

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